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Air Canada eUpgrades: How Much Are They Worth? T.J. January 21, 2021

Air Canada eUpgrades: How Much Are They Worth?

One great feature of the new Aeroplan program is the ability to redeem eUpgrades on flight reward redemptions. This allows Aeroplan Elite Status members to book an economy or premium economy reward and use eUpgrade credits to move to a higher class of service.  

In this post, I explore the valuation of eUpgrade credits in one of the most common use-cases under the new system: booking Aeroplan rewards in economy or premium economy and upgrading to business class.

In a future post, I will similarly explore how much value you can get from using eUpgrades on cash bookings.

Valuation Methodology

To establish the value of an eUpgrade credit, I sampled a series of redemptions across domestic, North America & Sun destinations, and international flights.

For each sample search, I converted the Aeroplan points prices for a given flight redemption in economy (Standard, Flex, or Latitude) or premium economy (Lowest) into cash values using our current valuation of Aeroplan points of 2.1 cents/point and added any additional co-pay amounts.

I then took the difference to the value of the Business Class (Lowest) redemption, and divided by the number of eUpgrade credits required.

This represents the value unlocked by a single eUpgrade credit in this scenario.


[ Value of Business Class (Lowest) Flight – ( Value of Given Flight + Co-Pay Amount ) ] ÷
Number of eUpgrade Credits Required

 

The tables in this article break down this calculation row-by-row:

  1. Aeroplan points required for a given flight, based on a sample search as an Aeroplan 25K member
  2. eUpgrade credits required to upgrade to business class
  3. Co-pay amount (if any)
  4. Cash cost of redemption: (1) × 2.1 cents/point + (3)
  5. Difference to business class: Difference of (4) between cost of given flight and cost of corresponding business class flight
  6. Value per eUpgrade credit: (5) ÷ (2)

I should also acknowledge that, for simplicity’s sake, our calculations here do not account for the role of eUpgrade clearance windows.

While Latitude fares permit eUpgrades at anytime, all other fares are subject to clearance windows, putting those with higher status at a greater advantage of having their eUpgrades confirmed than those with lower status on the same fares.

Domestic Flights

The following table shows examples of the cost in points for a variety of flights within Canada with the corresponding eUpgrade values.

Economy
(Standard)

Economy
(Flex)

Economy
(Latitude)

Premium Economy
(Lowest)

Business Class
(Lowest)

Toronto (YYZ) – Vancouver (YVR)

Aeroplan points

11,900

17,400

22,900

19,200

23,900

eUpgrades to business class

11

10

4

4

Co-pay

$150

Cash cost of redemption

$399.90

$365.40

$480.90

$403.20

$501.90

Difference to business class

$102.00

$136.50

$21.00

$98.70

Value per eUpgrade

$9.27

$13.65

$5.25

$24.68

Vancouver (YVR) – Edmonton (YEG)

Aeroplan points

8,800

13,300

18,800

17,700

eUpgrades to business class

5

4

2

Co-pay

$75

Cash cost of redemption

$259.80

$279.30

$394.80

$371.70

Difference to business class

$111.90

$92.40

Value per eUpgrade

$22.38

$23.10

Calgary (YYC) – Montreal (YUL)

Aeroplan points

11,600

17,600

23,100

38,900

eUpgrades to business class

11

10

4

Co-pay

$150

Cash cost of redemption

$393.60

$369.60

$485.10

$816.90

Difference to business class

$423.30

$447.30

$331.80

Value per eUpgrade

$38.48

$44.73

$82.95

For these sample bookings, the values range from $9.27 to $82.95 per eUpgrade credit, with an average value of $29.38. 

For the flagship flight between Toronto and Vancouver, which offers lie-flat beds, I would likely save my eUpgrades and book a Business Class (Lowest) fare to begin with. The points value is below the range shown in the Flight Reward Chart, and I know that I can get better value for my eUpgrades by saving them for another trip.

For the flight between Vancouver and Edmonton, in most cases I would either be inclined to tough it out in economy for a few hours or to book in business class to begin with, as the value per eUpgrade doesn’t look too attractive. 

However, I happen to have an upcoming work-related flight from Nanaimo to Edmonton, with a five-hour layover in Vancouver. I booked on a Standard fare, so I am subject to the $75 co-pay. Since my 2020 eUpgrades are due to expire at the end of February, I decided to bid for an upgrade, as I can easily get $75 of value out of a five-hour lounge stay and 1.5 hours of business class bliss.

Lastly, the flight between Calgary and Montreal, on a brand-spanking new Airbus A220, represents a great use of eUpgrades and the “Latitude Attitude”. The value per eUpgrade almost doubles from $44.73 on a Flex fare to $82.95 on a Latitude fare, and also preserves six eUpgrade credits for future use. 

In addition to saving 15,800 Aeroplan points, you can also instantly confirm the upgrade, as Latitude fares are not subject to clearance windows. 

North America/Sun Destinations

Let’s have a look at some sample eUpgrade values for flights between Canada and the rest of North America, including Sun destinations.

Economy
(Standard)

Economy
(Flex)

Economy
(Latitude)

Premium Economy
(Lowest)

Business Class
(Lowest)

Montreal (YUL) – Puerto Vallarta (PVR)

Aeroplan points

16,600

22,600

28,100

49,000

eUpgrades to business class

11

10

4

Co-pay

$250

Cash cost of redemption

$598.60

$474.60

$590.10

$1,029.00

Difference to business class

$430.40

$554.40

$438.90

Value per eUpgrade

$39.13

$55.44

$109.73

Toronto (YYZ) – Los Angeles (LAX)

Aeroplan points

11,200

16,700

22,200

18,600

79,200

eUpgrades to business class

11

10

4

4

Co-pay

$250

Cash cost of redemption

$485.20

$350.70

$466.62

$390.60

$1,663.20

Difference to business class

$1,178.00

$1,312.50

$1,196.58

$1,272.60

Value per eUpgrade

$107.09

$131.25

$299.15

$318.15

Vancouver (YVR) – Newark (EWR)

Aeroplan points

11,500

17,500

23,000

47,600

23,800

eUpgrades to business class

11

10

4

4

Co-pay

$250

Cash cost of redemption

$491.50

$367.50

$483.00

$999.60

$499.80

Difference to business class

$8.30

$132.30

$16.80

Value per eUpgrade

$0.75

$13.23

$4.20

For these examples, the values range from a paltry $0.76 to a whopping $318.15 per eUpgrade credit. The average value is $107.81.

For the Rouge flight between Montreal and Puerto Vallarta, which I searched for during a peak period, I would be inclined to book a Latitude fare on points over all other options.

Not only am I getting excellent value from my eUpgrades and saving 20,900 Aeroplan points per person, but I’m also not burning too many of my eUpgrades for a less attractive product.

From Vancouver to New York, the $250 co-pay on the Standard fare, the low values of eUpgrades on all fares, and the good dynamic award pricing would lead me to opt for a Business Class (Lowest) fare to begin with. In this case, Premium Economy (Lowest) is (oddly) twice the amount for business class, so it is to be avoided at all costs.

The most interesting situation above is on the flight between Toronto and Los Angeles. 

With the inflated Business Class (Lowest) points value on the dynamic pricing scale, my inclination would be to either book a Latitude fare and instantly confirm an eUpgrade, or to book a Premium Economy (Lowest) fare and hope to score an outstanding value of $318.15 per eUpgrade. Even if the latter doesn’t clear, I’d at least have a more comfortable transcontinental flight at a great redemption value.

This is a situation where your Aeroplan Elite Status could play an important role in your decision. I would be more confident that my eUpgrade from Premium Economy to Business Class would clear as a Super Elite or 75K member with longer eUpgrade clearance windows on a sought-after route, than I would be as a measly 25K member.

International Flights

Lastly, let’s have a look at what sort of value eUpgrades can unlock on international Aeroplan bookings.

Economy
(Standard)

Economy
(Flex)

Economy
(Latitude)

Premium Economy
(Lowest)

Business Class
(Lowest)

Toronto – London (LHR)

Aeroplan points

32,500

37,500

46,000

61,500

55,800

eUpgrades to business class

21

18

11

12

Co-pay

$750

$500

$200

Cash cost of redemption

$1,432.50

$1,287.50

$966.00

$1,491.50

$1,171.80

Difference to business class

$205.80

Value per eUpgrade

$18.71

Calgary (YYC) – Tokyo (NRT)

Aeroplan points

34,000

39,000

48,000

43,100

90,700

eUpgrades to business class

21

18

11

12

Co-pay

$750

$500

$200

Cash cost of redemption

$1,464.00

$1,319.00

$1,008.00

$1,105.10

$1,904.70

Difference to business class

$440.70

$585.70

$896.70

$799.60

Value per eUpgrade

$20.99

$32.54

$81.52

$66.63

Vancouver (YVR) – Sydney (SYD)

Aeroplan points

48,400

55,400

63,900

66,700

146,500

eUpgrades to business class

26

23

13

17

Co-pay

$750

$500

$200

Cash cost of redemption

$1,766.40

$1,663.40

$1,341.90

$1,600.70

$3,076.50

Difference to business class

$1,310.10

$1,413.10

$1,734.60

$1,475.80

Value per eUpgrade

$50.39

$61.44

$133.43

$86.81

For the above flights, the values range from $20.99 to $133.43 per eUpgrade. The average value is $61.38.

For all flights outside of North America, there is a mandatory co-pay fee for using eUpgrades on Flex and Premium Economy (Lowest) fares for all Aeroplan Elite Status members except for Super Elites, on top of the universal co-pay with Standard fares.

(Note that I also chose to include the co-pay on Premium Economy (Lowest) fares, which is currently waived as a promotional benefit but is set to be reinstated on March 30, 2021.)

Co-pay fees can seriously erode value from eUpgrades. In many cases, the additional fees on Standard and Flex fares bring the total cost close to the value of the Latitude fare, which comes with many additional benefits, such as being fully refundable and not subject to eUpgrade clearance windows.

This is indeed the case for the Toronto–London example above: the co-pay amounts for the Standard and Flex fares bring the total cost above the business class fare itself. In this case, I would likely book in Business Class (Lowest) and save my eUpgrades for another occasion.

From Calgary to Tokyo, it’s a close call between the Latitude and Premium Economy (Lowest) fares.

While the Premium Economy (Lowest) fare costs the least in points, it also comes with a $200 co-pay, a marginally higher cost in eUpgrades, and the disadvantage of being subject to the eUpgrade clearance windows. Ultimately, the “Latitude Attitude” wins out with a respectable value of $81.52 per eUpgrade and instantly confirming business class on a popular route.

Finally, the Vancouver–Sydney route is historically a very sought-after route for eUpgrades. At around 14.5 hours of flight time, having a lie-flat seat and on-call champagne can certainly stretch the eUpgrade value even farther.

This is the case for a speculative booking I made for my wife and myself from Sydney to Vancouver in late October. As Aeroplan 25K members, we each have 25 eUpgrades at our disposal for the 2021 benefit year. For around 64,000 Aeroplan points and 13 eUpgrades at a value of $133.43 each, this was an excellent use of half of our annual eUpgrade allotments.

So, What Are Air Canada eUpgrades Worth?

After discussing this question with colleagues, combing the bowels of frequent flyer forums, and staring blankly at my spreadsheets for longer than I’d like to admit, I believe that a reasonable valuation is $60 (CAD) per eUpgrade credit.

While you can certainly redeem eUpgrades at a greater value, I think that you should aim to get at least $60 of value from each eUpgrade credit regardless of your Aeroplan Elite Status.

Looking at these calculations, the Latitude fare category continues to strike me as the best overall sweet spot in many scenarios, allowing you to avoid co-pay fees, instantly confirm an upgrade, consume minimal eUpgrade credits and save them for future trips, and unlock higher value from the eUpgrades you do redeem. 

While I view $60/eUpgrade as a reasonable valuation, this figure can be adjusted based on your own flying patterns. If you travel very often or at the last minute, you might aim for an even higher value than $60/eUpgrade when deciding whether to use them. 

On the other hand, those who travel infrequently might not be too concerned about extracting maximum value from eUpgrades, instead simply treating them as a way to save a few dollars or Aeroplan points throughout the year.

Either way, it’s worth crunching the numbers when you’re considering using your eUpgrades to see what kind of value you’re getting.

In addition, these numbers can also inform your decision as to whether it’s worth paying the annual fee from a premium Aeroplan credit card to rollover up to 50 eUpgrades per year. 

Indeed, Air Canada has confirmed that there are no plans to rollover eUpgrades earned in 2020 into 2021 outside of premium cardholders, so it’s best to apply for one of the premium cards sometime before February 28 if you’d like to rollover up to 50 expiring eUpgrades for future use. 

Conclusion

As part of Aeroplan’s recent transformation, Aeroplan Elite Status members can now redeem eUpgrade credits on Aeroplan bookings. Doing so can save you points and increase the value that you get out of your status.

It’s important to consider all fare categories to see where you can find the most value in your eUpgrade credits. Through sampling a series of possible Aeroplan redemptions, we’ve seen that there’s a very wide range of possible values for your eUpgrade credits, and I believe that $60/eUpgrade is a reasonable target when deciding whether or not to redeem.

I’m curious if you’ve ever calculated the value of your eUpgrade credits, or if you’ve already redeemed them for outstanding value. Feel free to comment below, leave a post on the Prince of Travel Elites Facebook group, or join the discussion (and fun) on the Prince of Travel Club Lounge on Discord.

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28 Comments
  1. Avatar
    Man Ban

    Hi! I made a Aeroplan booking for YUL-YVR-AKL roundtrip. Premium Economy (Flexible) to go , and Premium Economy (Lowest) for the return. I’m Aeroplan 25K, I want to use EUpgrades to upgrade the first flight in Business, it shows availability in search result, but when I try to proceed on my ticket, it shows that I would be waitlisted. I cannot complete the process because I have to wait EUpgrades rollover (in march, I hope…). But why the waitlist for the upgrade, I tought it would confirm right away for Premium Flexible. Could it be because of the different fare option?

    1. TJ
      TJ

      Sounds like a great use of eUpgrades! As long as you have eUpgrades that are valid for the date of travel, the eUpgrade will process even if it shows ‘Waitlisted’ when you go to confirm. As soon as you confirm, the eUpgrade will process, and you should get an e-mail letting you know. For the other Premium Economy (Lowest) flight, you’ll have to wait for the clearance window, but that shouldn’t affect the Premium Economy (Flexible) flight. Let us know how it goes!

      1. Avatar
        Man Ban

        Thanks for the reply. I have 20 eUpgrades expiring on Feb 28th 2021. I just got the Amex Aeroplan Reserve. Do you know when the eUpgrade rollover will apply?

        1. TJ
          TJ

          It will happen automatically some time in March 🙂

          1. Avatar
            Victoria

            Should I be worried my eupgrades didn’t rollover, or are other people in the same boat?

            1. TJ
              TJ

              Hi Victoria. You aren’t the only one still waiting for your eUpgrades to rollover. But, since it is now April, I don’t think getting in touch with Air Canada is a bad idea. Let us know how it goes!

              1. Avatar
                Victoria

                I received a reply from Air Canada on my inquiry and they said in order for my eupgrades that expired Feb 28 2021 to be rolled over I had to have signed up by Dec 2020 to qualify. I got my card in early Feb so I won’t see a rollover until end of 2022. My understanding was as long as I signed up before they expired they would roll over but I guess I interpreted wrong…

                1. TJ
                  TJ

                  Hi Victoria. On a Zoom chat with Points, Miles, and Bling, the AC execs confirmed that people who applied for a premium card between January 1st and February 28th would be eligible for eUpgrade rollover. You’ll have to contact them directly or hopefully Aeroplan will be able to handle this request in the near future. So, some good news!

  2. Avatar
    GoldyD

    Hello T.J. What do you mean by “you can also instantly confirm the upgrade, as Latitude fares are not subject to clearance windows”. How do you go about getting it instantly? I’ve tried this with a flight from SYD. I was told by A.C. rep. that I needed to wait until a week before my flight in Nov, to can a confirmation. I decided to cancel rather than take a chance.

    1. T.J.
      T.J.

      Hello. With Latitude fares, there isn’t a clearance window as there are with other fares. So, if there is eUpgrade space available, your request should confirm instantly. You can find eUpgrade space either on ExpertFlyer (searching for R fares) or on the Air Canada website.

      1. Avatar
        GoldyD

        Where exactly does it go from economy to business?
        I see no option for selecting my business seat.
        I stopped right before paying by credit card.
        Yet I was not able to see any change in class.
        Am I suppose to press something other than “Continue” ?

        1. T.J.
          T.J.

          Briefly, here’s what to do:
          1) check for eUpgrade availability on the search results page on the AC website (Sort and Filter on the Aeroplan results,
          2) If eUograde space is available, complete a Latitude booking (it’s fully refundable)
          3) in the email that’s sent to you, there is a link for eUpgrade. Follow that link
          4) select the flight you’d like to upgrade.
          5) confirm eUpgrade, select seats.

          1. Avatar
            Stu

            Incredibly clear explanation T.J. Thank your for this and the comments on “waitlisted” from 2 weeks ago !

          2. Avatar
            Goldy Dimanche

            Big thank you. I always thought the emails where just a confirmation. Never went beyond that.

  3. Avatar
    GPA

    I was planning on using eUps to upgrade my wife and two kids on a flight from Japan… but found out that I can only use them for myself… as I understand it. Even if bought on my account. This is an annoying limitation… unless I got that wrong.

    1. T.J.
      T.J.

      The person with status needs to be on the booking to use eUpgrades. If you are a Super Elite, you can nominate someone to use your eUps on any booking. So, if you are travelling together, you can use them for one other person on the booking, and maybe one more can be requested at the airport.

  4. Avatar
    Mike

    Great post. I think e-upgrades on awards are a great feature in the new program.

    A few notes having booked a dozen or so domestic flights in the new program. I often just comapre the Eco Latitude to Lowest Biz to determine e-up value at a glance.

    Occasionally its worth looking at Premium Eco if booking last minute within your clearance window.

    Unlike in your examples, I find the Lowest Biz is very often inflated so i think the valuation for domestic will be higher in practice.

    Especially the flaghsip routes YYZ/YUL-YYC/YVR. Most of the time the biz lowest seems to be at least 20k more points, sometimes even 100k more when forcing a connection through YYZ from a secondary city at an ideal time of day.

    Basically rather than going for the cheapest, I often choose my route first (to ensure wide-body), then my departure/connection/arrival times. So when routing and timing are prioritized, the pricing J pricinc is usually sky high resulting in excellent e-up value.

    Lastly, can you guys please consider using a table that is zoom-able so we can choose how much we can view from a mobile device? There is much scrolling up down and side to side in order to see eveything, and no zoom in or out ability.

    Thanks for your efforts, keep up the good work 👍

    1. T.J.
      T.J.

      Great points, Mike! Thanks for sharing.

      There are indeed many instances of the points cost of business class domestic flights being sky high where you can get excellent eUpgrade value. I’m looking at flights between Toronto and Vancouver later this year and the Latitude + eUp combination would be worth $129 per eUp to J. I’m also happy in PY on that route, though 🙂

      I’ve noted your zoomable table request and will discuss it with the team.

  5. Avatar
    CR

    Hi TJ,

    For YYZ-YVR, why is your cash cost of premium economy (lowest) only $120.00? Is there a mistake here?

    1. Ricky
      Ricky

      My mistake when transcribing the table. Thanks for catching that.

  6. Avatar
    Ron Sigal

    Hi TJ
    Very interesting article! Would you consider making your spreadsheet available for calculating effective values of eupgrades under different circumstances?

    1. T.J.
      T.J.

      I’ll be very honest, my spreadsheet is mostly done with manual calculations. But, I think it would be easy to design an eUp value formula. Stay tuned.

  7. Avatar
    Oz

    Thanks for posting the DPs. By my calculations, which were more domestic. One used eupgrade is worth around $30. But for practical use, you wouldn’t want to pay money to use the upgrade and you most likely won’t use all the eupgrades. So I value them more like $20. In other words, if you have lots of AP you may not even use the eupgrade option.

    1. T.J.
      T.J.

      Good points. I also found that the value per eUp tended to be lower with domestic bookings. There are, though, pockets of really good value, especially for last minute flights or when the J cost is inflated (assuming eUp space is available).

      1. Avatar
        Oz

        Yup and thank you T.J. keep it coming with the reporting. 👍

  8. Avatar
    Robert Covington

    Hi T.J.,

    Thanks for this informative post about eupgrade. It looks more and more likely that your later October Australia trip will be cancelled due to the boarder restrictions. To me, making booking during the pandemic has been painful. Every time I book a trip, I know there’s a big chance of cancelling it because of border restrictions. The amount of joy and excitement of booking a trip, and the amount of disappointment and sadness of cancelling the trip, is it worth the effort? I think you know what I mean.

    Anyways, great useful post.

    1. T.J.
      T.J.

      Thanks for reading and commenting! I agree with you wholeheartedly – most (if not all) of my speculative trips for 2021 will likely be cancelled. Which is awful. But, I look at it as always having something to look forward to. If the borders open up, we will have beat the rush. But if they remain closed, with free cancellations there’s no cash (or points) lost.

T.J.

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